ALBANY — The 27 rest areas on the New York State Thruway will be reconstructed or refurbished under a contract awarded Tuesday by the Thruway Authority Board of Directors.
Under the contract, a private operator, Empire State Thruway Partners of New York City, will be investing more than $400 million in private capital in the rest areas, fully reconstructing 23 of them, and doing extensive renovations at the other four, authority officials said.
The service areas on the 570-mile system date from the 1950s, with the last major redevelopment of the areas taking place in the 1990s. In the Capital Region, there are rest areas with food and gas in New Baltimore, Guilderland and Pattersonville. All areas are open 24 hours a day.
The work will include adding new food options, more locally sourced foods, and more environmentally-friendly construction, authority officials said. The decision follows a call during Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State address to “re-imagine” the service areas, which are visited by thousands of motorist and families daily.
“The Thruway is a vital connector for interstate commercial and its service areas provide motorists with essential service amenities that allow them to reach their destinations safely,” said Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll.
Empire State Thruway Partners will be spending $300 million on its initial contract, and another $104 million in later investment. The contract guarantees the Thruway Authority at least $51.4 million in lease and gross sales revenue over the 33-year life of the contract, with Empire projecting that revenue actually will be in excessive of $85.3 million.
The contract is still subject to approval by the state comptroller and attorney general before it becomes final.
The contact with Empire State Thruway Partners was rated by internal and also independent reviews as the best among three proposals the authority received in the summer of 2019, officials said. Work at 16 rest areas will start in 2021, with work at 11 others scheduled for 2023. The schedule for which areas will be rebuilt and when hasn’t been released yet.
To ensure services remain available to Thruway users, no two consecutive service areas in the same direction will be closed for renovation at the same time.
Empire State Thruway Partners is primarily the John Laing Group, a London-based international infrastructure private investor that already operates Connecticut’s interstate rest stops.
The plan would bring all locations under one management. Currently, three companies operate the service areas: HMS Host runs 12, McDonald’s runs 11, and Delaware North runs four. All their current contracts expire by the end of 2022, Thruway officials said.
The Thruway Authority said some of the new amenities are based on the findings of a customer survey conducted in 2018.
At most locations, there will be new buildings constructed, with access from both the parking lot and fuel station areas. There also will be new exterior seating, picnic areas, play areas and pet walking areas, and more emphasis and local and New York state farm markets. There will also be call-ahead ordering, with kiosks and drive-thru service, at most locations.
The new buildings are designed to achieve a Silver rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design international environmental construction and energy efficiency standards, with solar arrays integrated into roofing systems and parking areas, rainwater harvesting for landscaping use, and reduction of light pollution.
There also will be passenger vehicle electric charging stations at all rest areas.
For commercial drivers, there will be increased parking for large trucks. Amenities for long-distance truck drivers will include shower and laundry facilities, fitness centers and healthy snacks, Thruway officials said.
About 250 million vehicles travel parts of the Thruway system every year. The system is currently cashless as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and apart from the emergency measures is scheduled to go entirely cashless by the end of 2020.